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Venezuela's New Trick For Killing Democracy: Make Official Statistics "Disappear"

The absence of accurate official statistics in Venezuela is no accident. Rather it is a symptom of the breakdown of the rule of law and hides the regime's criminal failures.

Venezuela's New Trick For Killing Democracy: Make Official Statistics "Disappear"

A mother holds her daughter while eating ice cream in the streets of Valencia.

Miguel Henrique Otero


BUENOS AIRES — Any web user consulting the website of Venezuela's INE or National Statistics Institute, as I last tried to do one day early last month, may find this is a waste of time. Our country stopped quantifying its population in 2011. Even the last census from that year, shown on the website, appears as a mass of words and stats that mean little to the general reader. There are no charts or diagrams to give an idea of trends or the bigger picture: just data used as "filling".

The webpage has a section for sectoral reports on consumer patterns, say, or the environment, but not beyond 2013 or 2014. Elsewhere, based on the 2011 census, INE estimates that Venezuela's population will reach 33,728,624 by June 30, without any mention of the seven million or more Venezuelans who have left since 2011. The number is likely rising by the day — not that it bothers the INE — which means there are no figures on how many of us are living inside and outside Venezuela.

So the official organ tasked with "exercising the technical administration of statistical activities of a public character in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, coordinating the National Statistical System and producing official statistics for the purpose of national planning and the exercise of popular power in public management" has nothing to say about our migratory debacle.

It is not so much a case of incomplete data as of a country being wiped off the records. After 2011, Venezuela entered the world of fiction.

Information sinkhole

Try consulting the webpage of the state oil company PDVSA (Petróleos de Venezuela). I did on May 9 and 10, only to find the page was down for no apparent reason. It just wouldn't load. So on that day and using the country's own oil firm, there was no way of knowing Venezuela's present oil output. It's a secret, or another piece of a lost country.

Turning to the oil ministry website instead — as I did on May 10 — I could not find a single figure as it says nothing about production.

It is as if for the regime, the land of Venezuela is non-existent.

Or if you wanted to know about crime trends, say in 2022, you could consult the interior ministry website. And the Ministry of Popular Power for Internal Relations, Justice and Peace, will tell you... nothing. Zero. You can regale yourself instead with its propaganda — more filling — and notices of non-existent programs.

I've also tried the Health Ministry website to see what I can find. I click on its National Surgery Plan, and it won't open. Absent, or in a coma. I click on Library (Biblioteca), which yields nothing. No documents there. I click on Works and Agreements: nothing at all. The Public Consultation button yields "No Information At Present."

So, there is no public information on illnesses in Venezuela, the state of hospitals or health situation in the various states or districts. It is as if for the regime, the land of Venezuela is non-existent. The Health Ministry used to publish an Epidemiological Bulletin for decades. I couldn't find it. It must have disappeared into the sinkhole of no news is good news.

Web page of the National Statistical Institute of Venezuela, much of which has been wiped of its records.

Statistics must be halted while Venezuela is being ransacked, because facts and transparency are corruption's enemies. So if your aim is to dishearten, divide and weaken a society, first click on censorship.


Corruption's enemies 

I have very little to say about the Education Ministry website. I couldn't open it. I trekked on toward the finance ministry, or Ministry of Popular Power for the Economy, Finance and External Trade. I found some stuff there: quarterly tax statistics — up to 2009. The rest was propaganda and irrelevant information like praise for the Cuban dictatorship on its 62nd birthday or for that criminal Lenin on the 153rd anniversary of his birth. More filling.

Venezuela is a country without official statistics.

As for the Agriculture Ministry, it has no website, in truth. What we can say about these websites is that their user-unfriendly design, intention to divulge nothing and a mix of outdatedness and abundant lies all convey the state's contempt for citizens. It is not that these agencies never got around to updating figures. They are implementing a systematic policy of hiding, confusing and distracting people from the reality of a country in a state of utter ruin.

Any information you can access on Venezuela will be from non-governmental organizations, international agencies, religious groups or universities. Venezuela is a country without official statistics. Nothing can be planned with any rigor, as no enterprise has a clear starting point or plausible projections. The state of course has little interest in people finding out about the dismal results of its incompetence and predatory practices.

Statistics must be halted while Venezuela is being ransacked, because facts and transparency are corruption's enemies. So if your aim is to dishearten, divide and weaken a society, first click on censorship.

*Otero is chief editor of the Caracas paper El Nacional, and lives in exile in Madrid.

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The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

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